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Finishing Well: The Adventure of Life Beyond Halftime

Finishing Well: The Adventure of Life Beyond Halftime

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Finishing Well: The Adventure of Life Beyond Halftime

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5 апр. 2011 г.


Author Bob Buford called them "code breakers." They are people age 40 and older who have pioneered the art of finishing well in these modern times, and who can teach us to do the same, starting today. Buford sought out 60 of these trailblazers--including Peter Drucker, Roger Staubach, Jim Collins, Ken Blanchard, and Dallas Willard--and has recorded their lively conversations in these pages so that they can serve as "mentors in print" for all of us.

"Twenty years from now," Buford writes, "the rules for this second adulthood as a productive season of life may be better known. But for now, we're out across the frontier breaking new ground."

Buford gives you a chance to sit at the feet of these pioneers and learn the art of finishing well so you can shift into a far more fulfilling life now, no matter your age, and pursue a lasting significance that will be a legacy for future generations.

5 апр. 2011 г.

Об авторе

Bob Buford is an entrepreneur who in the first half of life grew a successful cable television company. In his second half, Buford founded the Halftime Institute, an organization designed to teach, coach, and connect marketplace leaders to discover God’s calling in their lives. He also started Leadership Network, an organization that seeks to accelerate the emergence of effective churches by identifying, connecting, and resourcing innovative church leaders. For outstanding stories, great resources, events, and program information to help you on your Halftime journey, please visit www.halftimeinstitute.org.

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Finishing Well - Bob P. Buford

Introduction: Life II




— SHAKESPEARE, The Tempest

This is a book about a life that didn’t used to exist. It’s what I call Life II.

Odds are, you’ll live a whole adult lifetime that wasn’t available to your parents and grandparents. Their life expectancy at birth was fifty years. We have two lifetimes now. Life I is what occurs before halftime, and Life II comes afterward. Most people have a pretty good plan for Life I, but few can see their way forward into Life II. Life I has a multitude of clear role models and consists of fairly simple steps. You grow up somewhere, go to school somewhere, form your own family, and go to work somewhere. Then you retire and you ___________________. (You fill in the blank.)

Halftime is the in-between season that occurs at about age forty-five, plus or minus a few years, the time I described in my first book.¹. It’s the season of now what? In our time, halftime really marks the end of Life I and the beginning of a whole new second adult season that I’ve identified as Life II. Halftime used to be the beginning of the end. Now it is the beginning of a whole new beginning—a season that for me and many others has turned out to be the richest and most meaning-filled season of all.

We have few role models for Life II, because until recently we thought of life past the age of sixty as the end of productivity. Regardless of the euphemisms used to describe them, these were the senior years—time to head off into senior living, which certainly wasn’t thought of as any kind of new beginning, more like the long good-bye.

Not long ago I was invited to speak to a group who ministered to what they called senior adults. In the course of several side conversations, I asked people what was meant by that term, and they weren’t quite sure. A banner outside proclaimed Over 50, but the exhibits were for hospices and for cruises with happy old folks looking off into the sunset. Displays offered flyers for senior living facilities—what used to be called old folks homes. But when I asked these eagerly listening individuals how many of them would like to be referred to as seniors, only four or five hands out of 280 went up, and those were at a tentative half-mast. When I read them the Life I sequence with the fill in the blank, a roomful of people unanimously and simultaneously finished my sentence "you retire and you die."

The new territory we discover in Life II is what Magellan and other explorers called terra incognita, or unknown territory, someplace off the map of the known world. We’re not quite sure what’s out there. Having listened to hundreds of halftime stories, I can say with some conviction that most people feel this way. An expression I heard verbatim more times than I can count is: I’m in halftime and I don’t have a clue where to go from here I went through a time when I wasn’t sure myself. I faced hard questions I couldn’t answer.

In order to come to grips with these questions, I did what I’ve done the last twenty years of my life whenever I didn’t know: I went to the mountaintop; I went to see Peter.

Peter Drucker is my wisdom figure, my go-to source for understanding. He has over four million words in print! Not long ago, The Economist magazine commissioned Peter to write a twenty-seven-page section on the Next Society. They picked a ninety-two-year-old to write about what’s next for the world! And if it’s good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for me. So, in my quest for answers, and filled with anticipation, I went to see him.

I found Peter at home in Claremont, California. He lives in a surprisingly unassuming suburban house near the Business School at Claremont Graduate University that bears his name. He was relaxed, fit, and characteristically warm and gracious. I had sent a letter ahead to get him thinking, and he was more than ready.

What now, Peter? I asked. I’m sixty-four. I still have plenty of gas in the tank, but where to drive?

The most important thing you’re working on is halftime, he began. "You’ve identified a need, and you’ve started a lot of people asking the right questions and put them on a quest for significance. Now it’s time for you to go find the lessons for what makes the second half of life work.². But, he warned me, don’t write a book for old people. Find the lessons for the forty-five-year-olds. By sixty-five it’s too late."


The lessons for the forty-five-year-olds? That’s become my primary quest over the course of the past year, and what this book is about. Peter calls it my third career. After thirty years in the television business, and now almost twenty years in a parallel career as a social entrepreneur, working through the organization I founded, Leadership Network,³. I’ve taken this new adventure very seriously.

One thing I’ve noticed in my quest is that Life II takes most people by surprise. It’s as if they wake up one day in a new world. Suddenly the landmarks are different. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies and the rapid advance of science, we’ve explored all the geographic frontiers. From microbiology to outer space, we’ve seen some amazing things. But now, it turns out, the most challenging frontiers are human and demographic. Here’s how Peter Drucker put it in the foreword to my third book, which sought to explore why so many capable people were stuck in halftime and having a hard time getting traction on their second halves:

In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, I think it is very probable that the most important event these historians will see is not technology, it is not the Internet, it is not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time—and I mean that literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves.

Unfortunately, as Peter also observed, we are totally unprepared for it.

Up until maybe 1900, even in the most highly developed countries, the overwhelming majority followed their father—if they were lucky. If your father was a peasant farmer, you were a peasant farmer. If he was a craftsman, you were a craftsman. There was no such thing as upward mobility.

And now suddenly, a very large number of people choose what they want to be. And what’s more, they will have more than one career. The average working life span is now close to sixty years. You got twenty years in 1900.

In a very short time, we will no longer believe that retirement means the end of working life. Retirement may even come much earlier than ever, but working life will continue if only out of economic necessity. For many, however, working well beyond retirement will be a choice based on preference. They will either tire of luxury or desire to use their knowledge and experience to contribute to society.⁴.

Most people are unprepared and they are searching for meaning in midlife. They are seeking. This is a midlife demographic wave. The good news is that it’s up to us. It’s the bad news too, for choice brings with it uncertainty and a burden of responsibility. Two books that have been perpetually on the bestseller lists indicate that the search is shared by many, many people who have found that success in life is not the final answer: Po Bronson’s, What Should I Do with My Life?⁵. (a totally secular book of more than fifty stories of people who really don’t know the answer beyond find a good job) and Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life®⁶. (15 million copies sold in just over a year, Christian from cover to cover with over 1,500 biblical references). The book you hold in your hand occupies a middle ground—more answers than Bronson’s lost wanderers and less theological than Warren’s excellent book.

Most people don’t really have plans or role models for Life II. It comes as a surprise to most, but not to the group I call the code breakers.

I set out a year ago on what I would call an interview odyssey for people seeking to crack the code on Life II. I wanted to find the pioneers, the pathfinders, the leaders ahead of us in this new territory. These code breakers redefine what it means to be fifty and beyond. I wanted to find out what they were thinking and, more importantly, what they were doing to find meaning in Life II. Over a period of time I interviewed over 120 exceptional people—those making a meaningful difference in the lives of others and, as a by-product, living with passion and contagious enthusiasm. About half of them are quoted at length in the pages of this book. They have punched through the demographic frontier that seems to impose real limits for most of us, and they have lessons to teach us.

So let’s get started. Most of the words in the following chapters are boiled down from more than a thousand pages of single-spaced dialogue with the code breakers, the pathfinders. I want you to have a sense of the tone and atmosphere of these interviews, so I invite you to think of reading this book as going to lunch with me and some of the smartest people on the planet … people who have cracked the code on how to be effective and fulfilled in Life II.

By the time I spoke to Peter Drucker, I had already conducted about twenty interviews. As I described my early findings for his reaction, he said, "You are interviewing the exemplars, the heroes of this next life. They may not be smarter than the others, but the main difference between them and the nonheroes is that they think ahead. The nonheroes aren’t introspective. They don’t think ahead. They let life surprise them. They are not aware. But if you tell them, they’re receptive." In other words, like most of us nonhero types, they get it when they see it, and once they get it they can implement it in their lives. That’s what I have been doing all my life: finding out how the heroes think and act differently, then implementing it in my life.


That’s my format—take an exemplar to lunch.⁷. Find out how he or she is doing life. Follow the lessons. Expect to learn from what follows, exploring what these pioneers are doing to make Life II richer and more meaningful than the rest of us.

This is not, however, nor is it meant to be, a random sample of American life. Most of these code breakers are like Tom Luce, with whose story I begin. Born into modest means, Tom’s mother worked in a dress shop and lived in a strategically located duplex so he could go to the best public schools in Dallas. Graduating from SMU, then night law school, Tom went on to a career as a superlawyer and founder of a big law firm. Now he’s changing the world for millions of schoolkids, the kids with working moms whose breakthrough into the middle class comes through their education, just as it did for Tom.

You’ll meet some celebrities in these pages—a Heisman Trophy winner, a White House chief of staff, a best-selling author, a winner of six Grammy awards—but most are products of the so-called American Dream: modest means, good education, finding and building on a core strength, and a sense of calling to serve others in Life II. They are all multipliers who are making a lot of what they’ve been given to work with. Far from just wasting away by themselves, they are deeply engaged in contributing to the lives of others. That’s where the legacy of their lives live on. It’s what I call socially productive aging. Most, but not all, are people of committed Christian faith, as I am. Some are Jewish. Some are seekers. The difference in their faith dynamic is that they act on it; they step out. They are willingly at risk and often in harm’s way. Most of them set a course for Life II in their forties and fifties, well before their retirement threshold arrives.

And they will finish well, running through the tape. As Dr. Kenneth Cooper puts it, I want to work on Friday and die a quick death on Monday. Most aren’t superrich. Though some are, they redeploy their wealth voluntarily to build and support ministries and social enterprises that will make the world a better place.

All are interesting. There’s not a one I wouldn’t like to spend more time with and introduce my friends to. I think you will find them interesting too.

And if you follow the lessons they teach with their lives, you will go a long way toward cracking the code for your own Life II. Maybe not like they did, for their examples are both exceptional and diverse, but I believe what you discover from them may help guide you to ways that express your own core and your own life’s calling. You’ll find a list of the cast of protagonists in the table of contents and their background information in Appendix 1, and then we’ll get started with our learning-over-lunch adventure.

But please know this: You are the protagonist of your own life. That’s the free in free society and free enterprise. You are a composite of many influences. My aim is that you see yourself, and the choices you will make to guide your own Life II experience, in the mirror of these accomplished people. As Peter Drucker said, we may not be inventors, innovators, and pioneers, but once we see it, we can do it. We are up to it. What we need is the will to live more for meaning than for money, status, or applause. We need the intention to serve a higher purpose than fulfilling our own selfish wants and needs.

If we have the want to, the people in this book can show us the how to. So come with me now and let’s see what we find. I encourage you to mark this book up as you read, and in so doing, join the conversation. Underline what resonates with you. Write your reactions in the margins. Think of it as if you and I were at a quiet table together with a code breaker.

Get involved. Learn the lessons.


Is There Something More?


Let’s Do Lunch

Visualize this. You and I are having lunch at your favorite place. It’s comfortable, a good place for going to talk. You’ve come to a point in your life where you’re asking, What now? What’s next? You feel a new season in the air. I’ve invited a wise friend who seems to have some answers to the questions you’ve been asking, someone who seems to be ahead of us in this season I call Life II.

Certainly, all of the hundred-plus interviews I did for this book weren’t over lunch, but it’s a good way to think of the conversations you will find in these pages. Organic, personal, each one unique. We’re in the company of wise and caring friends talking about things that matter. I followed whatever paths our conversations led us down, and I listened to what was said.

Lesson one: Just listen.

Today I’ve invited Tom Luce because he’s a friend, a wise counselor, and someone whose own life models many of the lessons we seek to learn. Many of the themes we’ll explore in this book are present in this one particular interview, so it’s a good place to start.


Tom Luce had just wrapped up a long session working on public education issues when we spoke. He had been in a conference room full of people who were helping an eighty-five-year-old client from West Texas decide how to deploy his resources. Tom’s a superachiever, passionate about public education, and knee-deep in a program to help fix it.

Tom’s faith and the biblically oriented class he’s attended faithfully for more than thirty years are at the center of his motivation to give his life to public service. But the choice hasn’t always been easy: Tom also has medical conditions that cause him to live with continual pain and prevent him from getting a good night’s sleep. But he refuses to let such things impede his work.

As we sat down, I asked Tom to tell me what parts of his life’s work had given him the most satisfaction.

When I started the law firm, he said, "my goal was to build an institution that would outlast me. From the very beginning, my goal was to build something strong enough to survive my departure, and doing that allowed me to be free, because I knew I could step down without regrets when the time came. I could leave because I’d know I’d accomplished my goals, and others would take it from there.

The other thing that I feel good about, he said, is the wonderful friendships I’ve developed over the years. God gave me the ability to be a good counselor, to put myself in the clients’ shoes, and that has led to many rewarding relationships. Friendships are important to Tom. He and I have known each other for fifteen years.

Tom, I know how much these friendships mean to you, I said, but obviously you also have a passion for a variety of projects. For example, you were the key guy in implementing billion-dollar-plus mergers, bringing a Magna Carta to this country, and building a nationally recognized law firm.

Yes, he said, all of that was very satisfying to me, and being able to step out of my normal role in situations like that has made practicing law even more of a pleasure. But the real reason I’m drawn to institution building, Bob, is that I never really had a burning desire to be a lawyer. My first interest was always business, and I never really intended to practice law. If I hadn’t gone into law, more than likely I would have been an entrepreneur, a builder of businesses. That’s where my gifts are, but as it turned out, I took those skills and applied them to other things.

Most of us have different seasons in life, I said. Our passions change. Was there a point at which you felt the law firm was becoming more institutional than entrepreneurial?

It was entrepreneurial for a number of years, he said. We worked very hard at establishing our practice and acquiring clients, but I never wanted to be a managing partner, even though I was for many years. I felt that job demanded different skills, and I was more of an entrepreneur, not an institution runner. I wanted to use my entrepreneurial gifts, so turning the job of managing partner over to someone else was an easy step for me.

Was there a halftime period? I asked. Did you come to a point when you felt you’d been there and done that? Or did you decide there was still more to do?

I think it was a little of both, he said. I reached halftime in ‘88 or ‘89, when I decided to run for governor. I’d built a law firm and achieved some success, and I felt that the political arena might be the best way to make the move to significance.

Running for governor turned out to be a firebreak for you, didn’t it? I asked.

Yes, it did, he said, and it was very difficult for me to go back to practicing law after I lost. It wasn’t what I felt I was supposed to do in the next stage of my life. I was searching for what to do next, but obviously the door I thought was open had been closed.

So, with a little perspective on all that, how do you feel about the experience now?

I’m really glad I ran for governor, he said. "If I hadn’t taken the risk I think I would have always wondered if it was something I should have pursued. It was disappointing to lose, but I’m still glad I did it. The hard part was that I didn’t just lose the race; I also lost a lot of my financial security. I’d spent so much on the governor’s race that it took years to restore my assets.

I eventually went on the board of Dell, Inc., Tom continued, which helped me rebuild my financial base and allowed me to focus again on public education. That led me to Just for the Kids. But basically I had to go back to ground zero before I could move on to what I was meant to do next

But at some point you got involved in Ross Perot’s presidential campaign, I responded. When was that?

That was the spring of ‘92, he said, "and I felt I owed a debt to Ross for his early confidence in me that launched my career as a lawyer and helped me build my law firm. I discharged that obligation but was still wondering, Wait a minute, Lord! What did I misunderstand? I was seriously in need of some answers."


It’s often surprising how unexpected changes of direction can lead us back to the things we’re supposed to discover. In Tom’s case, he realized that what had given him his start in life—education—was really where he wanted to focus his service. He was the son of a single mother who worked as a salesclerk in a small shop in an upscale community. They lived in a modest apartment, but because they were in the Highland Park school district, Tom had the opportunity to go to some of the finest schools in the country.

Good schooling made Tom’s upward mobility possible, and he never forgot that. I first got involved in education reform, he told me, "because Ross Perot asked me to. Ross was our biggest client, and he volunteered me for a couple of projects, so that’s why I did it. Once I got involved, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for the education I’d received. But in the background was this sense of righteous anger because I’d had such a good education, and here were kids who were being crippled for life by the very schools that should be helping them succeed.

The fact that my mother sacrificed her own interests for my sake, he explained, "enabled me to do all the things I’ve done. But suddenly I was seeing kids who weren’t getting any help at all, and that really made me angry.

You’ve often talked about finding your passion, Bob, and what got me out of being stuck in halftime, and over the hump of being involved in making a difference for others, was stepping out and hiring someone to come in and help me solve the problems. It was a critical first step, and it turned out to be the step that helped me move beyond my halftime experience. Something about committing to another person forces you to make a serious decision to do something.

And that was when you hired Brad? I asked.

That’s right, he said. "I first met Brad Duggan in 1983. He’d been president of the Texas Elementary School Principal Association. Only two education organizations out of about eighty had backed the 1983 education reform bill, and Brad’s group was one of them. I knew he was dedicated to reform, and I had a vision to form an organization to help make changes. That was the basis of Just for the Kids.¹. I asked Brad if he’d join me and help build the organization, and fortunately he said yes.

"I remember the conversation well. Brad said he’d love to do it, but he wanted to know if I was serious or just dabbling. So he said, ‘Tom, I’d be making a big jump to come with you. How long will you be committed to this?’ So I told him I was in it for three to five years at least. And if it worked out as we hoped, I was in for the long run. It was a critical decision for both of us. I’d committed for a certain number of years, and that was the big step in making Just for the Kids happen.

Since that time, Tom continued, "Just for the Kids has found a unique specialization—collecting data on school performance all over the country. Statistics are collected on every phase of the education process, segmented by social and economic factors. From that analysis it’s possible to identify the best schools by grade and subject with every type of student population, and then determine how they achieved superior results. Most importantly, we then make those ‘best practices’ available to educators and parents on the Internet.

"When parents see the performance of their kids’ schools, they’re better equipped to judge how well the schools are doing and what kind of education their kids are getting. In fact, the No Child Left Behind program implemented by the Bush administration mandates that performance data be collected on every school in the country.

"Administrators may say, ‘If you had the kids I have, coming from single-parent homes, who move around a lot or are on the free-lunch program, your kids wouldn’t perform well either.’ But Just for the Kids gives parents the facts, showing how other schools with the same problems are performing. It gives them objective standards, so principals, administrators, and parents

can see what’s really happening. And principals who are trying to make excuses for their shoddy performance can be held accountable."


Tom, you’ve created an incredible program, I said, but how did you go from your law practice to creating an institute for education reform?

My first concept was to follow the model of the nonprofit organization you founded, Leadership Network,². he said. You’ve used Peter Drucker’s expression to ‘go to the islands of health and strength’ to convene them, let them talk to each other and learn from each other. I knew twenty or thirty talented school principals, so I convened them. The problem was that I wanted to change 6,500 schools in the state of Texas. I didn’t have the personal knowledge to go that far, so one thing led to another. We learned how to measure success, how to replicate it, and how to create a best-practices scenario. The essence of what we’re about today is measuring success, figuring out how those schools do it, and then convincing others to do the same.

From 1994 until today, I said, Just for the Kids has had some amazing results.

You could say that, Tom said. We’re now in sixteen states and just got a grant that will help us go to all fifty. We’ve trained 7,000 principals and teachers in Texas, and we’re beginning to see the payback in terms of quality and classroom results. So I couldn’t be happier.

You’re in your early sixties now, I said. What does the future hold? Imagine that we’re meeting here twelve years from now, and let’s assume you’ve finished well, and life has worked out just as you’d hoped. What would all this look like to you then?

I’d like to know that I’ve helped a million kids achieve their God-given potential, he said. I think that’s what public education is all about, helping children maximize their God-given talents. Everyone has a bundle of gifts, and the schools can help each child maximize his or her talents. They can’t do it alone; our children are vulnerable to so many influences, many of them not good. But schools can help kids choose the right ones and act on them. I’d like to know I’ve helped a lot of kids.

I like the sound of that, I said. But what will you need to do in the intervening years for that to happen?

Well, I will need to take Just for the Kids to all fifty states, he said, and teach ‘best practices’ to 100,000 principals and teachers. They’re the ones who will change the lives of the kids.

How many kids are you talking about? I asked.

About sixty-five million, he said. You remember the old line about the bank robber Willie Sutton? Somebody asked him why he robbed banks, and he said, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Well, we go into the public schools because that’s where the most kids are, and we want to impact those kids with habits and knowledge that will change their lives. The ones who have the hardest time maximizing their human potential are those in public schools. I want those kids to have an education as good as the one I had.

What effect do you think that will have on the broader culture? I asked.

Outside of the faith component, a good education does more than anything to help people maximize their human potential. Christ can do it better than the public schools, but the public schools can do so much more than they’re doing now, and that’s my passion.

Earlier you said you were looking for whatever it is that you were called to do. Is this it? I asked.

My desire was to know I’d performed a public service, which I think I was called to do. Time will tell how much value these things will have, but I believe this is what I’m supposed to be doing. To the best of my judgment, I’m doing God’s will.

How do you know God’s will? I asked.

I don’t know for sure, he said, but I pray a lot, and I try to do what I believe is right. The hard thing is to pray for God’s will to be done in your life, that you’ll know it when it comes, and that you’ll be strong enough to go out and follow it.

You’ve had some health problems that caused you to think about the long term and finishing well, I said. Do you think most people finish well?

As a lawyer, I’ve had occasion to counsel a lot of people, in all stages of their life, he said. "Based on my experience, I don’t think many of them finish well unless they’ve found some new mountains to climb. I think that’s what determines if a person is truly successful in life. It’s important to feel as if you’re making a difference, and I think it’s probably pretty

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